Updated Nov. 30, 2020. "The body can't lie," according to Traci Brown, a body-language and persuasion expert based in Boulder, Colo. Learning to read the subtle signs that tell us when a person is lying is an enormous advantage in our personal and business relationships, she says.
"Make sure you're paying attention, or you will pay with pain," Brown advised when she presented on the subject to Northstar Meetings Group's Destination West attendees in the past. Let's review some the top tips Brown has shared for determining if someone is lying. And if you'd like to learn more about how to present yourself online during a digital meeting, head to How to Look Better on Zoom: 10 Easy Tips.
1. Matching Words & Body Language
In our culture, shaking one's head up and down means yes, and side to side means no. If someone is saying, "No, I didn't do it," but their head is shaking yes, they probably did it, said Brown. "People subconsciously accent things with their heads all the time," she added -- and the head is more trustworthy than the mouth.
Brown played several news clips of high-profile figures responding to serious accusations -- all while shaking their heads "yes": President Bill Clinton's denial of having had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky; JonBenét Ramsey's father saying he did not kill his daughter; cyclist Lance Armstrong insisting that he didn't use performance-enhancing drugs; and Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady claiming he didn't deflate the football.
2. Lips Don't Lie
Folding in one's lips before speaking is a red flag. "When people's lips disappear, they are holding back information," said Brown. "The next thing that comes out of their mouth is either a half-truth or a lie."
3. Be Attuned to Tone
Tone of voice is one of the best indicators of deception. A strong "convincing" tone often indicates deception, while a softer "conveying" tone can mean someone is telling a partial truth and not the whole story.
4. Big Talkers
People who are most effusive in their denials or other untrue statements are among the most likely to be guilty. "The ones who are working really hard at looking like the good guy are the people we have got to be wary of," said Brown, who, as a former professional cyclist, counts Lance Armstrong -- and some current political figures -- among the culprits.
5. Notice the Jitters
"If someone becomes fidgety, that can indicate deception," Brown noted. Our feet give us away with the instinct to flee an uncomfortable situation, and when our brains tell us we can't do that, a little dancing in place might be the result.
6. Look for Inconsistencies
People have typical patterns with respect to their baseline body language and manner of speaking. If someone's body language is unusual for that person, take note.
7. It's in the Eyes
"When you see the whites of people's eyes, that means fear," said Brown. If someone's eyes dart around when they're asked a question -- shifting up, down and side-to-side -- they're fearful of giving an honest answer.
8. Yes or No Isn't Maybe
"I think so," "I don't recall" or "to the best of my knowledge" are suspect answers to any yes-or-no question.
9. Distrust a Delay
"If someone waits more than five seconds to answer a question, that's a pretty good sign of deception," said Brown.
With careful observation, we can become adept at reading the nonverbal cues of a liar, said Brown. Seidman agrees, and it will be the focus of his presentation, 'Lie to Me', at Destination California. It's important to know what someone is thinking and feeling when you're trying to build constructive relationships, he reminds. "People often attempt to suppress their emotions. But there is 'leakage,' known as micro expressions, which occur in one-fifth of a second."
Seidman will train the audience to better pick up on those micro-emotions. "[I will] introduce attendees to the science of hidden emotions by pre-testing their ability to discern micro-expressions," he explains, looking forward to the experience. "Most everyone will fail, and we'll all have a good laugh."
But all jokes aside, Seidman says this is serious business. "The group will then be taught the coding of emotions," including which clues and cues to recognize in facial expressions. By the end of the session, Seidman says attendees will experience a noticeable increase in their own lie detection skills and will be able to put those lie-busting tactics into action once they leave. Learn more about Lie to Me and Destination CA 2020, here.